UK Politics

Parental leave: Fathers to get almost 12 months

Model posed picture of man and child
Image caption The government has consulted on plans to introduce a new system of shared parental leave

New fathers could get nearly 12 months of parental leave after the birth of their baby, it is reported.

The coalition has already outlined plans for parental leave to be shared between mothers and fathers.

But, according to the Daily Telegraph, fathers could start their leave two weeks after the baby's birth if the mother decides to return to work.

Plans to legislate for the change are expected next year, although the scheme may not come into force until 2015.

The Department for Business declined to comment on the Telegraph report.

It said it had consulted on proposals for more flexible parental leave, as agreed in the Coalition Agreement, and would be responding "shortly".

In the original consultation, ministers outlined plans to reserve 18 weeks of paid leave to mothers around the birth of the child, with a further 30 weeks available to be shared between both parents - 17 of which would be paid.

'Not workable'

In addition, each parent would be entitled to four weeks of parental leave and pay exclusive to them to be taken in the first year of their child's life.

But The Daily Telegraph has reported on new plans, agreed by the cabinet, which would mean after the first two weeks of the baby's life any remaining leave is available to either the mother or the father.

This would allow a mother to return to work if she is the main breadwinner.

The newspaper said the introduction of the proposal would be delayed until after the next election following a cabinet disagreement, with concerns about how the plans might damage business.

Last month the British Chambers of Commerce said it supported the objective of helping mothers return to work, but has "yet to see proposals on flexible parental leave that are workable".

David Cameron and Nick Clegg will announce details of the proposals towards the end of October, the newspaper said.

Maternity Action, which provides advice and information to pregnant women and new parents on maternity rights and benefits, said the change was "long overdue".

It said: "Shared parental leave will increase the flexibility of current maternity leave to enable more fathers to share in caring for their baby.

"This is a long overdue change which recognises that fathers as well as mothers can care for their baby.

"The increased flexibility will offer families real choices about managing work and caring responsibilities."

'Radical step'

Adrienne Burgess, joint CEO of the Fatherhood Institute - which has been lobbying for shared parental leave from two weeks onwards - described the move as a "very positive step".

"For too long families have had little choice but to go down the traditional route of the mother staying at home," she said.

"The UK has the biggest gap between maternity and paternity leave entitlements in the developed world. This change will give couples real choice about who does what, and make our economy much more competitive as a result."

Ceri Goddard, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for equality between men and women in the workplace, welcomed the move towards shared parental leave at a Conservative Party fringe meeting earlier this week.

She described it as a "radical" step that would "start to challenge employers' discrimination" against women workers.

Amber Rudd, Parliamentary aide to the chancellor, told the meeting it could also improve the recruitment prospects of some women.

The Tory MP said: "I used to work in recruitment and there is a kind of assumption that women are a bit of a liability sometimes, to recruit, because they just might go off.

"And the fact that you can take away a bit of that uncertainty is a very positive thing."

But she added: "I would support trying to get more clarity for the employer from women if they've had a baby about when they are going to come back to work."

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